Breast cancer prognosis and occult lymph node metastases, isolated tumor cells, and micrometastases.
SourceJournal of the National Cancer Institute, 102, 6, (2010), pp. 410-425
Article / Letter to editor
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Epidemiology, Biostatistics & HTA
Journal of the National Cancer Institute
SubjectNCEBP 2: Evaluation of complex medical interventions; ONCOL 3: Translational research
BACKGROUND: The prognostic relevance of isolated tumor cells and micrometastases in lymph nodes from patients with breast cancer has become a major issue since the introduction of the sentinel lymph node procedure. We conducted a systematic review of this issue. METHODS: Studies published from January 1, 1977, until August 11, 2008, were identified by use of MEDLINE, EMBASE, and the Cochrane Library. A total of 58 studies (total number of patients = 297,533) were included and divided into three categories according to the method for pathological assessment of the lymph nodes: cohort studies with single-section pathological examination of axillary lymph nodes (n = 285,638 patients), occult metastases studies with retrospective examination of negative lymph nodes by step sectioning and/or immunohistochemistry (n = 7740 patients), and sentinel lymph node biopsy studies with intensified work-up of the sentinel but not of the nonsentinel lymph nodes (n = 4155 patients). We used random-effects meta-analyses to calculate pooled estimates of the relative risks (RRs) of 5- and 10-year disease recurrence and death and the multivariably corrected pooled hazard ratio (HR) of overall survival of the cohort studies. Results : In the cohort studies, the presence (vs the absence) of metastases of 2 mm or less in diameter in axillary lymph nodes was associated with poorer overall survival (pooled HR of death = 1.44, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.29 to 1.62). In the occult metastases studies, the presence (vs the absence) of occult metastases was associated with poorer 5-year disease-free survival (pooled RR = 1.55, 95% CI = 1.32 to 1.82) and overall survival (pooled RR = 1.45, 95% CI = 1.11 to 1.88), although these endpoints were not consistently assessed in multivariable analyses. Sentinel lymph node biopsy studies were limited by small patient groups and short follow-up. CONCLUSION: The presence (vs the absence) of metastases of 2 mm or less in diameter in axillary lymph nodes detected on single-section examination was associated with poorer disease-free and overall survival.
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